BEN SIMON has quit Sheffield Steelers two days after the end of a season in which he delivered the Elite League title, writes Bob Westerdale.
The highly-principled Player Coach felt the salary offered to him - the main slice in a reduced overall players’ budget - left too little room for the rest of his players.
Club owner Paul Ragan said the offer of personal terms had been a “strong package” - but added the club would not bust the wage cap...as it had done at the beginning of the season. Simon could not be a “special case” he said.
The Star first revealed the American may go back on March 19 despite overtures from Ragan to keep him.
The businessman said: “We worked very hard to try and retain his services and put a strong package forward to do the best we possibly can. I know that Ben has aspirations back in north America.
We are disappointed by it. I won’t hide that fact, but we respect his personal wishes.”
Steelers won the league title just 18 days ago, but lost by a single goal in the Play Offs in semi-final last Saturday’s. The campaign has been a remarkable triumph for a first-year coach who arrived at a time the club was in financial melt-down.
Ragan is keen to avoid any further fiscal problems and says;
“There is a wage cap going forward and we have to honour that. I have been very vocal in terms of how we move this sport to the next level.
“Ben feels that for him to seek higher forms of renumeration is not fair on his guys and I respect that. He is a very loyal hard working guy but he has got very strong morals. On that basis he feels uncomfortable being in a situation where he may be earning more than other people. He realises the business is in recovery mode. This is all about building longevity for Steelers so we are not going through another’yo-yo’ ownership situation.
“And even though we put a strong package on the table for him, an increase on where he was previously, we have to respect his wishes. He’s a very deep and honourable guy.”
Ragan has already started casting the net for a replacement, although Steve Munn, who was initially offered the job last summer, is not on their list. Other candidates could include Ashley Tait or Ryan Finnerty.
Simon said: “There are always regrets, but I’ve made the right decision, although I am mad about the general situation. Wherever I go I’ll be rooting for the team.”
* Look out for Steelers’ ‘Champions’ Special Edition on sale today.